2016 year-end message by Prof Ong

2016 is coming to a close. Before some of you leave for the holidays, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas. This year, I have decided to start a new tradition – the year-end message.

It has been a great year for the Materials Virtual Lab. We have come a long way since our founding a little over three years ago, and I believe we have now firmly established ourselves as one of the up-and-coming computational materials research groups in the world. We will end 2016 on a high note with a little over 20 publications in highly respected journals. Funding is at a very healthy level for a group of our age, and we are now a dynamic family of three postdoctoral associates, ten graduate students and three undergraduates. Two of our earliest members (Zhi and Paul) have completed their Senate Exams, and another two (Chen, Zhenbin and Zhuoying) have completed their Literature Review Exams. We welcomed three new group members (Chi, Hui and Zhuonan), and one new-old group member (Richard) in Fall 2016. We will also soon say goodbye to Bala, who has found an excellent opportunity in NASA. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Much of our success is due to you – the talented, hard-working computational-materials-informaticists, who make the discoveries that transform our understanding of materials and hopefully, improve the world we live in.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. We face three major challenges in the horizon. First, federal funding for climate research is likely to be constrained in the coming years. Nevertheless, I believe it is our moral imperative that we continue to work on materials research that help address this existential threat to the human race. We will of course seek to diversify both our research portfolio, as well as our funding sources. Second, standard computational methods are rapidly becoming “commoditized”. To stay relevant, we need to continually upgrade our ideas, methodological capabilities and unique research infrastructure. Finally, attracting diverse talent remains one of my top priorities. In light of the current environment, I want to reaffirm our group’s commitment to meritocratic, anti-discriminatory principles.

What does this mean for you? It means that I will expect more, not less, from you in 2017.

I will expect to see that you grow, not just scientifically, but also professionally and personally.

I will expect creative analyses and insights that blow my mind, and I will expect to see them presented in papers and presentations that are written in flowing prose of surpassing clarity.

I will expect each and everyone of you contribute to our unique software infrastructure with well-documented, robustly-tested code.

Above all, I will expect to see you contribute more ideas during meetings, and to each other’s projects.

I believe you have the potential to achieve all these things. Let us make 2017 an even better year for us than 2016.

Have a great holiday, and I will see some of you in the new year.

Shyue Ping